The amazing power of 140 characters

Application or Web App, DS106, Professional Development, Social Networking 8 Comments »

With the initial release of Twitter, I couldn’t see how this application could act as an effective way to communicate when each tweet was limited to only 140 characters. Those who have followed my writing over the past three decades know that I am severely challenged whenever I try to share educational information in a concise manner. Furthermore, when I initially signed up for a Twitter account and started following educational colleagues, I couldn’t see any value in receiving miniscule messages such as “I had Corn Flakes for breakfast this morning” or “Have just picked apples off our backyard tree & am helping my wife bake apple pies.” True, I learned about other interests that my “friends” might have, but I wanted to quickly separate the educational “wheat” from the “chaff”. To illustrate this point, I ask you to examine the tweets of Dean Shareski, an innovative educator from the province next door.  As of today, Dean has in excess of 22,200 followers, who if they had started following Dean when he first started using Twitter, would have subscribed to more than 93,500 of his tweets. One might suggest that Dean generates a great deal of chaff but I can assure you when you do encounter Dean’s  educationally relevant tweet “nuggets”, they are well worth engaging in the winnowing process. In fact Dean has a YouTube video warning potential followers entitled “So You’ve Decided to Follow Me on Twitter” in which he shares his reasons for tweeting about all interests in his life.

We are in the midst of the holiday season, be it Chanukah, Christmas, or Kwanza, and most of us are in a gift-giving mode. In today’s post, I want to share how, through the serendipitous use of Twitter, a gift was created for Alan Levine by a number of individuals who have only virtually connected in cyber-space.

Many of my regular readers know that in 2012 I participated in a free, online, digital storytelling DS106 class that was offered though the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Jim Groom and Alan Levine were my instructional leaders for this innovative course which engaged me right from the start. Alan Levine (aka “Cogdog”) continued to teach and refine DS106 over the past couple of years as he introduced new learners to this amazingly, creative DS106 educational environment.

One of the motivational activities that challenged DS106 participants was “The Daily Create” (TDC) which is described as:

The Daily Create provides a space for regular practice of spontaneous creativity through challenges published every day. Each assignment should take no more than 15-20 minutes. There are no registrations, no prizes, just a community of people producing art daily. Developed as part of the ds106 open course on digital storytelling, TDC is open to anyone who wants a regular dose of creative exercises (and it more fun than jumping jacks, pushups, and P90X).

To appreciate the wealth of creative prompts and ideas shared here, I encourage readers to visit The Daily Create Archive.

Even though I actively engaged in a host of DS106 assignments for four months in 2012, I still subscribe to The Daily Create feed which arrives daily by email. In fact it was The Daily Create #1069 that arrived in my in-box on December 12, 2014 that jump-started me again.

Alan Levine challenged us to “Generate a Meme Image That Emphasizes the Spirit of DS106″. However, it was Alan’s request for assistance that resonated with me when he stated “You can help me (@cogdog) out for a presentation I am doing January 8 by using something like the Meme Generator to create an image that highlights the experience of DS106 in one loud, proud utterance.”

Not fully understanding what constitutes a meme, I used Flickr’s “Advanced Search” to find Creative Commons licensed images that I could modify by adding text that I felt might help outsiders to better understand the DS106 learning experience. My fist two meme attempts included the remix images “Learning the DS106 way” and “DS106 is Engagement!”. In keeping with my DS106 training, I documented what I had learned in the process and shared my reflections in my blog post entitled “Engaged Leaning is Authentic Learning”.

Tweet AOnce I had uploaded my two memes to my Flickr photostream, I tagged them with “dailycreate” and “tdc1069″ so that images would be automatically transferred to the DS106 “The Daily Create” web site. In addition, I sent this first tweet to Alan Levine (@cogdog) and anyone who was filtering or searching for tweets based on the #DS106 hashtag.

Imagine my delight when Alan responded to me with the adjacent tweet which I immediately made a “favourite”. Not only was he extremely pTweet Bpositive but his tweet was shared with not only the #DS106 community but also with more than 8300 of his Twitter followers. In fact, it was through these Twitter connections that I was once again complimented. To my knowledge, Mariana Funes, was not enrolled in my 2012 online course, but she practices one of the DS106 “ABC” mantras. Although “Always Be Creating” was the focus for DS106 participants, the power of “Always Be Commenting” should not be overlooked.

Tweet CWhether it was a instructional comment on another DS106 student’s blog post or a positive tweet highlighting the work of a colleague, such feedback is indeed an intoxicating elixir. Tweets like Alan’s and Mariana’s are powerful motivators which encourage you to continue to share online. Furthermore, I was delighted with Mariana’s next tweet which indicated that she was “inspired” by my efforts and decided to create her “Doge does DS106″ meme to help out Alan.

Tweet DI must admit that I didn’t know that the dog in Mariana’s DS106 meme was called “Doge”. In fact our son, who is a software engineer and returned home from San Francisco for Christmas, patiently explained to me that the true memes were pictures that had gone viral. Perhaps, if I had researched Mariana’s reference to “Doge”, I would have found “Know Your Meme” and become somewhat more aware. As our son said … “Just because you uploaded an engagement ring image into Meme Generator, and added some text, doesn’t make it a meme”. I suggested that perhaps my remixes of Creative Common licensed images with DS106 text attributes were actually ideas in their infancy waiting to go viral :-)

Tweet ERegardless of my lack of understanding of memes, another “favourite” tweet from Alan Levine, which complimented my life-long learning passion, motivated me to create more memes for my mentor. Although they are really “remixes” and not “memes”, my efforts were to try and capture the essence of what DS106 meant to me and to share my creativity with Alan and other members of the DS106 community.

Having been an educator for 40 years, I was quite familiar with the delivery system where “one assignment fits all”. Imagine my delight in the DS106 process which encouraged me to choose a variety of innovative activities, which captured my imagination, from the DS106 Assignment Bank. As of today, this repository contains 809 assignments with 7292 examples created by engaged learners. Each of these assignments was given a difficulty rating from 1 to 5 stars and the instructor might challenge students to complete 10 stars worth of work in one of the 10 categories including Visual, Design, Audio, Video, Web, Mashup, Writing, Fanfic, Animated GIFs, or 3D Printed Assignments.

Tweet FWhen I was enrolled in the DS106 online course, I was intrigued by assignments like “Fat Cats Make Art Better”. I thought that I might create a meme using the “fat cat” theme together with the DS106 “ABC” mantra “Always Be Creating”. In addition, I was so intrigued with the flexible nature of the assignments in DS106 that I thought it was important to try and capture this powerful idea in a “Metcalfe meme” (not to be confused with the real memes). The resulting remixes of “ABC” and “Flexible” were uploaded and Alan was advised with the tweet at right.

Tweet GOnce again Alan sent me a tweet indicating that he loved my “Flexible” meme. He reinforced that thought by adding a comment associated with this remix image in my Flickr photostream. Not only did I appreciate his feedback regarding my artistic remix of  “Flexible”, but also this activity allowed me to learn how to add text to a curved line. I know that in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements v.10 there is a built-in feature where one can simply add text to a curved path. Unfortunately, I own Photoshop Elements v.9, so I had to search Google for ideas. I imported the Creative Commons licensed image into PowerPoint, added the spaced-out letters “F L E and X”, and then individually positioned each of the remaining characters I, B, L, E and ! to create the effect.

HoweTweet Hver, it was Mariana’s next tweet that I believe was the critical tipping point in all this Twitter communication. By suggesting that perhaps Rochelle Lockridge (@Rockylou22) might consider creating an “HTML book” for Alan Levine, members of the DS106 community went back to this “5 day old” Daily Create and designed more memes to help out with his January 8th presentation. In fact, when I uploaded my last “Flexible” remix on December 17th, there were 14 memes in the list. Now there are 21 with the last entry, to date, being uploaded on December 22nd.

Tweet IUsing a variety of remixes and memes created by the DS106 community, and a tweet prompt from Mariana Funes, Rochelle Lockridge created an amazing, online flip-book called “What is #DS106?” using Flip PDF Professional. She presented the link to Alan Levine, through the tweet on the left, and advised some of the DS106 Daily Create #1069 contributors of her creation. This innovative present to Alan was a fitting tribute to a mentor who so willingly shared his expertise and motivated so many within the DS106 community.

Tweet JOnce Rochelle sent out her tweet regarding this innovative flip-book gift, the accolades starting flooding the Twitterverse from the #DS106 community. Like Sandy Brown Jensen, many individuals that Rochelle credited on page 2 of her online flip-book, sent out a congratulatory tweet or connected with Rochelle to acknowledge her efforts and creativity.

Tweet KAlan was “totally blown away” with Rochelle’s innovative flip-book and considered perhaps forgoing the use of slides at his upcoming January 8 presentation. Obviously the contents of this “What is #DS106?” flip-book highlighted, in a very unique way, the experiences that participants had when they were engaged in the DS106 learning environment.

Stephanie Jeske also sent out a congratulatory tweet to the flip-book creator as well as several of the DS106 meme generating participantTweet Ls. I, too, felt that it was important to provide Rochelle with feedback as to my thoughts on her creative present for Alan Levine. I think it is very important to acknowledge the good that people demonstrate. I believe that as educators we can identify with the small pebble that is tossed into a quiet pond. The ripples spread out forever in concentric circles and we never fully comprehend to what degree we have influenced others.

Tweet MThus, it is very important to acknowledge the work of our colleagues, be they creative DS106 members or K-12 educators. It takes very little effort to send out a Twitter message of 140 characters. However, in many cases that motivational comment or educational link may motivate them or help them be a better educator. Not only do they, as teachers, profit from the message in the tweet but ultimately, and perhaps indirectly, their students benefit from this same action.

Tweet NIn summary, I want to thank the members of the DS106 community who took time to construct their Daily Create #1069 memes. Undoubtedly, Mariana Funes was a key player because she saw the potential in showcasing these remixes and memes for Alan in an on-line flip-book.

Tweet OUltimately, it was the creative work of Rochelle Lockridge who blended these memes and ideas into a digital story that represents so well the creative talents and caring of the DS106 participants. Indeed, I am so proud to be a part of this DS106 community and know that through the judicious use 140 characters I, too, can share my learning with others.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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A sweet tweet may be too fleet!

Application or Web App, DS106, Professional Development, Social Networking, Tip No Comments »

Have you ever received a tweet containing a great idea or educational resource, only to have it “disappear” when you need it? Have you ever wanted to share an idea, about a week after you had learned about it through a  Twitter feed, but because you had not designated it as a “Favorite”, it too was “lost”? Perhaps you have shared an idea or re-tweeted someone’s awesome resource and yet when you want to share this same tweet with another colleague, two weeks later, the tweet can no longer be located. If you have encountered these or similar situations, I have some possible solutions.

Unfortunately my incoming tweets, from my Personal Learning Network (PLN) seem to have a very short “shelf life”. For example, I find that tweets seem to be “visible” in TweetDeck, (which I use to scan and send tweets), for about two days. When I visit my original Twitter application, I can at least review tweets for up to four days before they are no longer available. True, I can probably adjust the “Settings” in TweetDeck and change the “Max. number of updates in a column” from the default value of 200 to a much larger number. However, regardless of what the maximum number of tweets that are displayed, I am sure that “Metcalfe’s Law” states that “one will need to locate an important Twitter message at least one day after the tweet vanishes from the system.”

Here are two strategies that I use to retrieve information in tweets, after they seem to disappear:

1.   Use any of the following “Paper.li” twitter newspaper archives. Thanks should be extended to the dedicated educators, whose names appear in brackets following the archive process that they initiated.

To learn how you can retrieve tweets from any of the “Paper.li” archives, I recommend that you view my previous blog post entitled “Teacher Tool: The Manitoba-Educators Daily“. These archives provide an excellent source of ideas and resources that are either shared or received by Manitoba educators using Twitter.

2.   I admit that I often check Andy McKiel’s “The manitoba-educators Daily” because it is a powerful archive of tweets that have been created or re-tweeted exclusively by Manitoba educators. However, I must admit that there are times that I would like to have a personal archive of the tweets that I have sent out. Such a mechanism would allow me to retrieve from my “sent tweets” and perhaps DM (direct message) or send a particular tweet to other educators.

The solution that I implemented was to install the “Twitter Tools” WordPress plugin on recommendation from my DS106 instructors. They emphasize the communication and connecting that is so important in today’s world. Thanks to “Twitter Tools”, regular readers may view my latest three tweets under the “Tweets I’m Sharing” header in the green right-hand margin. Perhaps what I value more is the weekly archive of my tweets that are automatically generated each Sunday morning. For example, yesterday’s “Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-02-12” lists the 30 tweets that I either created or re-tweeted during the previous week. Furthermore, if the reader wishes to click on my “Social Networking” category in the green right-hand margin, all of my weekly archived tweets will be displayed.

I trust these strategies will help you keep better track of your tweets since I know that they are already helping me.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Credits:
–   Flickr – Creative Commons image “Follow me on Twitter
by Slava Baranskyi– http://www.flickr.com/photos/woofer_kyyiv/3581392721/

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Sweet Tweet – The Power of Social Networking

Info, Social Networking, Sweet Tweet No Comments »

At the beginning of this month, President Obama broadcast on national television the death of the terrorist and 9-11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden. However, Twitter and social networking played an important role in the way people around the world became informed.

The first innocuous tweet was sent Sohaib Athar, a 33 year old programmer living in the town of Abbottabad, Pakistan. His moment in history began with the tweet “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).” He went on to “live blog” what he was witnessing as the covert operation to capture Osama Bin Laden unfolded.

Those connected by Twitter may have learned of the death of Bin Laden well before President Obama made his historic television broadcast. Keith Urbahn, the Chief of Staff for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, tweeted “I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden”. This first credible tweet, regarding Bin Laden’s death, was followed up by Jill Scott, a CBS news producer, who confirmed the rumour by tweeting “House Intelligence committee aide confirms that Osama Bin laden is dead. U.S. has the body.”

Upon reflection, the power of Twitter and social networking became quite apparent when these news-breaking, 140 character messages, were re-tweeted hundreds of times. In fact, a significant number of Twitter users, who closely follow news-breaking stories, were informed of Bin Laden’s death well in advance of the U.S. President’s television announcement.

I admit, that although I use Twitter and the TweetDeck application to network with educators, I learned of Bin Laden’s death when my son phoned to suggest that I turn on my T.V. to watch President Obama’s announcement. However, it was Alice Barr’s following tweet, which once again demonstrated the power of the Internet and social networking when she stated:

Wikipedia entry for Bin Laden already edited. Wild

Tweet Details: Received – Sunday, May 1, 2011.
– Originally sent or “tweeted” by Maine technology educator, Alice Barr aka @alicebarr.
– Re-Tweeted (RT) by PR facilitator for The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, Raymond Job aka @raysadad.

That evening, when I investigated Alice’s tweet and searched for “Osama Bin Laden, the Wikipedia article had already been updated. On the right side of the web page, surrounding the terrorist’s picture were the recently modified birth and death dates of “March 10, 1957 – May 1, 2011 (aged 54)” and the “Place of death” was identified as “Abbottabad, Pakistan”.

The following brief paragraph was already entered on the left side of the web page:

“On May 1, 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama announced on national television that bin Laden had been killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan and that his body was in U.S. custody.”

This “sweet tweet” entry reinforces the immediacy and power of social networking and we, as teachers, need to be aware and thoroughly investigate ways in which we can capitalize on this educational opportunity.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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Sweet Tweet – Twitter for Teachers

Info, Professional Development, Sweet Tweet 2 Comments »

Twitter turns five years of age this month. Co-founder, Jack Dorsey, sent the world’s first twitter message: “just setting up my twttr” on March 21, 2006. Undoubtedly, in five short years, Twitter has changed the way many of us communicate and share information.

For those unfamiliar with Twitter, it is a free, social networking and micro-blogging service that runs on both computers and internet-connected mobile devices. Since this communication service was designed to be used by people “on the move”, each message or “tweet” is limited to 140 characters so it can be easily displayed on the smaller cell phone screens.

As an educator, I use Twitter. I must admit that at first I could not see the benefit of receiving “tweets” that described what a person ate for breakfast, what music one was currently listening to, what sports team another individual was cheering for, or someone asking his/her “followers” for suggestions on how to train their dog. However, although these “somewhat superfluous” messages, in my humble opinion (often compressed in “tweets” as IMHO), still are sent, I find they take up far less than 10% of all my Twitter messages. Such unique messages do add a dimension to the individual sender of which one may not necessarily be aware. It is the remaining 90% of Twitter traffic that exposes me to interesting, educational activities and resources. In fact, it is Rodd Lucier’s “Twitter Bingo for Education” image that cleverly summarizes a variety of ways educators may use Twitter.

Having now used Twitter for more than a year, I thought that I should create this new blog category called “Sweet Tweet”.  Here, I hope to share meaningful, succinct messages that I think are unique and inspiring. As my first “Sweet Tweet”, I thought I would share the a powerful message from Kevin Kindred of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Following the recent tsunami and the resulting nuclear accident, Kevin provides an insightful perspective into most jobs when he compares his with a Japanese nuclear worker:

RT @kevinkindred: Japanese nuclear worker on the news: “I am prepared to die to avoid meltdown.”   <I will not complain about my job today.>

Tweet Details: Received – Thursday, March 17, 2011.
– Originally sent or “tweeted” by Kevin Kindred aka @kevinkindred.
– Re-Tweeted (RT) by Swan River educator, Ryan Maksymchuk aka @biggmaxx.

I encourage educators to register for a free Twitter account. Don’t feel that you need to contribute right away. Rather, be a lurker, and “follow” other educators with whom you feel a common grade, subject, interest or passion. Manitoba teachers might consider following some of the educators listed in the wiki called “Manitoba Teachers Who Tweet“.  I’m sure that in time you will find Twitter to be a powerful tool in helping to share knowledge and expand your personal learning network.

To help get you started using Twitter, I provide the following resources:

I encourage readers to share their favourite tweets with me for possible inclusion in future “Sweet Tweets”. One may send them by Twitter to me at @bkmetcalfe, in this blog post “Comment”, or by email to Brian<dot>Metcalfe<at>life-long-learners<dot>com.

In closing, I trust that you will come to appreciate Howard Rheingold, when he stated, “I think successful use of Twitter means knowing how to tune the network of people you follow, and how to feed the network of people who follow you”.

Take care & keep smiling :-) Brian

Credits:
– Flickr Creative Commons image “Twitter Bingo for Educators” by Rodd Lucier aka thecleversheep
http://www.flickr.com/photos/thecleversheep/4119047800/
Free Twitter Bird Icon Set from Gopal Raju with a special thanks to Chris Metcalfe for the “tweet bubble” graphic enhancement.

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